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By Virtuoso Legal


IP Top 10 December – Twitch Get Twitchy Over Premier League Claim

Now that the festive season has drawn to a close and the wheels of business have begun to turn again around the world, we cast our eye over the big stories that would not wait until the New Year in December's IP Top 10.

Liam Hemsworth sued for using paparazzi picture to promote film

In December, Liam Hemsworth became the latest celebrity to fall victim to a copyright infringement claim, having shared paparazzi photographs of himself on Instagram.

Splash News and Picture Agency are seeking $150,000 per infringement due to the actor posting a series of images to promote his upcoming film “Isn’t It Romantic” which is due for release next month.

This latest claim evidences the common lack of understanding surrounding image rights and copyright in photographs, which make high profile claims of this nature so common.

USA Today have a snapshot of the proceedings here.

Kim Kardashian West sues Vampire Facial Doctor  

In one of our most unique headlines ever...

Remaining on-trend with celebrity image rights, December also saw Kim Kardashian West file a claim against Dr Charles Runels over claims that he misused her image to promote his ‘Vampire Facial’ cosmetic procedure.

The reality star is seeking an injunction to bar any further use of her image to promote the procedure, along with damages from the doctor and any others that also profited from its circulation.

There is some irony to the claim, as Ms. West had previously shared an image of her face after completing the procedure – attracting over 150,000 likes on Instagram.

The defending Dr Runels has slammed the hypocrisy of the claim, given Ms. West had referenced his registered ‘Vampire Facial’ trade mark in her Instagram post without any permission;  “First she works to let everyone in the world know she had a Vampire Facial and now she doesn’t want anyone to talk about it.”

We're not sure what else to say about this one...

More incisive information on this from ABC news.

Twitch faced with $2.9 billion Premier League copyright claim

December saw one of Russia’s top internet companies threatened to sue streaming platform Twitch for over £2 billion due to alleged pirate broadcasts of English Premier League matches.

Rambler Group contended that its exclusive broadcasting rights were breached by Twitch more than 36,000 times between August and November and sought to permanently ban the streaming service throughout Russia.

Twitch initially argued that the claims were entirely unfounded, as the company’s terms and conditions expressly state that users cannot share content without permission from the copyright owners.

However, a settlement was reached swiftly between the two parties and the action was dropped within two days of filing. Head of Rambler Group sport projects Mikhail Gershkovitch stated, “[W]e are glad that we reached the common understanding and closed the trial proceedings, we are also grateful to Twitch for a constructive dialogue.”

The BBC has the scoop here.


Nokia halts patent litigation against Daimler with mediation olive branch

The dispute over technology licencing fees between Finnish telecoms company Nokia and German automotive company Daimler was suspended in December in an attempt to resolve the issue via mediation.

The action represents a broader conflict between tech companies and car manufacturers over royalties due for vital tech elements incorporated within car models - such as navigation and vehicle communication systems.

Nokia has previously issued ten claims against Daimler for alleged patent infringement, whilst Daimler has duly responded with counterclaims of their own.

A statement from Nokia surmised, “[T]o ensure there is time for this mediation to be successful, we have unilaterally chosen to postpone the pending hearing on 10 December in Germany… We trust that Daimler and its tier 1 suppliers will now engage in these meaningful efforts to reach settlement.”

More behind what is driving this claim here.

Dolce & Gabbana feel the wrath of God in image misappropriation action

In a ruling which exemplifies the strict degree of protection afforded to personality rights under Italian law in comparison with most European counterparts, the Milan Court of First Instance ruled in favour of footballing icon Diego Armando Maradona, ordering Dolce & Gabbana to pay around €70,000 in damages.

The dispute centred on a football shirt adorned with Maradona’s name, which was prominently displayed on the runway as part of Dolce & Gabbana’s Fall 2016 Alta Moda Collection in Naples.

Whilst the damages awarded are considerably less than the initial sum of €1 million claimed, the decision evidences the strength of the Italian Industrial Property Code and its extensive protection of image rights.  

The superb The Fashion Law has more information here.

Bruce Lee’s daughter claims against fast food chain over image use

Meanwhile, a case in China has raised familiar questions surrounding the protection of image rights and how such protection is balanced against the protection afforded under coexisting intellectual property rights.

Bruce Lee Enterprises, led by Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee, allege that the use of Lee’s image is entirely without permission and subsequently seek over £20 million in damages.

The image in question is of a dark-haired martial artist, over which the Real Kungfu fast-food chain has held a registered trade mark since 2007.

The complexity arises in the fact that Article 32 of the Trademark Law of the People’s Republic of China states that a sign cannot be registered as a trade mark if it prejudices the existing prior rights of others. Article 101 of the General Rules of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China also grants individuals the right to their name, portrait and reputation.

It appears that the Lee estate did not oppose the registration in its infancy, and whilst they own various trade marks features Lee’s name and likeness, they do not hold any marks in China.

On this basis, it seems unlikely that the claim will succeed. However, given China’s shift in attitude in relation to the protection of intellectual property, it remains to be seen whether the fast food chain will have a fight on its hands...

The BBC report here outlines the tale of the tape.

Sony reveals raft of new patents in anticipation of PS5

The close of 2019 saw Sony file for a number of patents relating to the new PlayStation 5 controller, as the company look to gear up for the launch of their most advanced gaming platform to date.

The latest controller patent reveals a raft new features, which suggest it may be marketed as an expensive model in order to compete with Microsoft’s XBOX Elite controller series, which retail for around £150.

Given the recent growth in VR gaming and the e-sports industry, the filing of new patents offer a curious insight into the direction the gaming industry is looking to take in the coming decade.

Business Insider take a peek at this impending future here.

USPTO publish Samsung patent application for extendable screen display

Further patent developments in December arose from South Korean tech giant Samsung, as documents disclosed by the US Patent & Trademark Office revealed a Samsung smartphone concept that will have the ability to expand its screen display.

With this innovation, Samsung could deliver a single smartphone solution which offers multiple display sizes.

Naturally this could provide a vital competitive edge, and the technology promises a transferable model which could be implemented across a range of tablets and display screens.

Whilst the patent was filed in June 2019, the concept has gained significant exposure in wake of the USPTO reveal.

Patently Mobile have the full story here.

Vera Lynn trade mark dispute

Dame Vera Lynn was awarded £1,800 in costs in a dispute with Halewood International, arising from their attempts to trade mark ‘Vera Lynn’ for alcoholic beverages and spirits.

The company, who are behind notable drinks brands such as Crabbie’s ginger beer, unsuccessfully argued that the name was cockney rhyming slang as opposed to a direct reference to the renowned entertainer.

In this case, "Vera Lynn" was argued to be used as cockney rhyming slang for... gin. Clever!

They also claimed that there would be no confusion with the Dame, as the name would be seen as a mere play on words by the relevant public.

However, the trademark hearing officer roundly rejected these arguments, concluding that the use of the name could be misconstrued as an endorsement.

Lynn has been using her name as an unregistered trade mark for music and charity work throughout her career and has since sought to register her own ‘DAME VERA LYNN’ trade mark.

The Guardian has the full story here.

European patent office refuse patent application with AI as the sole inventor

The European Patent Office has rejected an attempt to register an AI as an official inventor on a patent application.

This occurred after the AI created two concepts submitted for patent approval, including a new type of drinks container and a device to assist during search and rescue operations.

The group behind the application, led by Professor Ryan Abbott of the University of Surrey, argued “the right approach is for the AI to be listed as the inventor and for the AI’s owner to be the assignee or owner of its patents. This will reward innovative activities and keep the patent system focused on promoting invention by encouraging the development of inventive AI, rather than on creating obstacles.”

However, the European Patent Office failed to agree, concluding that "an inventor designated in an application must be a human being, not a machine.’

This conflict of opinion evidences the complex debate surrounding AI invention, which is set to heighten in the coming years as AI technology increases in prevalence.

Whilst the EU has previously considered the addition of ‘electronic personality’ to the categories of accepted patent owners, the notion has been greatly derided by experts in robotics, IP and AI.

IP Watchdog has this story covered here.

IP Top Ten December - That's it!

This is it for December, and with January, a new year and decade well underway, we look forward to next month's IP Top 10.

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